Self-proclaimed avid anime fan since first watching "Detective Conan" in 2008, although probably not as avid as a true blue otaku.
Anime based on the themes of science fiction and futurism have always interested me, probably because of their generally superior and elaborate visuals, or their out-of-the-ordinary storylines that give an insight into how our world might be many years down the road.
No doubt, I always felt that there was something in the animation of such anime that attracts my eyes and keeps them glued to my computer or TV screen. The mind-blowing gadgets and machinery, surreal architectures, and out-of-this-world technology against a backdrop of ever-progressing science—ah, they're just so irresistible!
One such anime that I happened to come across the other day from a friend's recommendation is Guilty Crown, produced by Production I.G and adapted into a manga by none other than Square Enix. Alongside science fiction and futurism, Guilty Crown explores an apocalyptic theme with a nice blend of romance.
Set in an alternative near future when a biological hazard known as the Apocalypse Virus hits Japan and plunges the entire nation into pandemonium in what is known as the Lost Christmas incident, the story is set in a Japan that is controlled by the GHQ, an organization under the auspices of the United Nations.
The story revolves around Shu Ouma, an ordinary high school student who finds himself being dragged into a resistance faction fighting for Japan's independence after meeting a popular internet vocalist and key member of the resistance faction called Inori Yuzuriha. Following that fateful meeting, Shu accidentally acquires a powerful genetic weapon called the Void Genome that enables him to extract the minds of people materialized in physical form, using them as weapons in battle. And his life is never the same again...
Science fiction, romance, action
Hiroyuki Yoshino, Ichiro Okouchi (Writers), Tetsuro Araki (Director)
Biological Hazards Wiping Out Mankind?
Guilty Crown explores a question that is, no doubt, very relevant in this era of globalization, where terrorism and pandemics serve as frequent scares to the minds of mankind everywhere. The Apocalypse Virus in the alternate world of the anime was itself a deadly pandemic that wreaked much havoc throughout Japan, claiming the lives of many directly (from death in the later stages of the disease) or indirectly (from ruthless massacres of innocent civilians believed to be infected).
Had the virus not been quelled adequately by the GHQ government, the entire Japanese population could have easily been wiped out, and the virus subsequently spread worldwide to eradicate the entire human race. Nonetheless, keeping the pandemic at bay also cost Japan its independence and, as a result, triggered resistance factions seeking to liberate the country. To sum it up, the accidental discovery of the virus in Japanese territory stripped a progressive and advanced nation of all it had to be proud of.
Drawing parallels from this story, it is a fact that biological hazards are real threats to the stability and, in fact, the very existence of mankind. Of course, the form biological hazards take does seem farfetched in the story, but it nevertheless serves as a reminder of the catastrophic effects that such hazards can have on mankind and the vulnerability of mankind in the face of such hazards even in spite of all modern advancements in the sciences.
What is worse is that if such biological hazards can be manipulated by terrorists, as what happened during the infamous anthrax scares quite some time back, is the global citizenry well prepared?
Divine Retribution, Inevitability of Evolution, or Mankind's Fault?
The manner in which the Apocalypse Virus struck Japan to such an extent that it literally turned the nation upside down also brings to mind another question: was this an act of divine retribution to wipe out the human race; a natural process of evolution where, according to Charles Darwin's renowned theory of natural selection, inevitably only the fittest survive; a fault of the rapacious and arrogant nature of man that ends up devouring nothing else but himself, or a combination of these?
The fact that the virus was first discovered in a meteorite, the origins of which were shrouded in utter mystery throughout the story, may point to the first two aforementioned speculations. Nonetheless, the selfish and envy-driven acts of Shuichiro Keido in his efforts to produce a new generation of mankind using Mana and his own DNA reflect how the selfish acts of man can ultimately destroy himself and others around him as well.
Fickle Is the Heart of Man
An important lesson to be learned from the anime with regard to human nature is the fact that the heart of man can be so fickle, especially in the face of adversity, uncertainty, and desperation for survival. The storyline reveals instances of shifting allegiances and changing personalities, some under undue pressure and others due to motivations for personal gain.
In the face of unpredictability amidst harsh realities, added by the pressures of being a leader and ultimately Hare's death, Shu's personality underwent a drastic change, from being the soft-spoken, well-liked, and morally upright leader to the iron-fist, cold-blooded tyrant who consequently gained nothing but retaliation and backlash from the very ones he was trying to save after successfully crossing the Red Line.
Changing loyalties are also reflected in the general attitude of the student body, in which the students of Tennouzu High, who at first unanimously voted Shu in as the new student president, subsequently regretted their decision and turned their backs against him when his personality as a leader changed drastically.
Faced with a new threat in the form of the revived Gai Tsutsugami in the last few episodes, their loyalties and commitment switched back to Shu, seeing him as the only remaining hope to save the world. Nonetheless, when it comes to changing loyalties, none stood out more than Arisa Kuhouin, who, from being a close ally of Shu, started plotting against him during his days of tyranny, eventually even going to the extent of betraying her family's ideals and supporting Gai in the end.
Comments on the Anime
Before saying anything else, I would like to point out the anime's greatest strength—its graphics. Guilty Crown's graphics is at worst, a breathtaking sight to behold and at best, the epitome of futuristic aesthetics by anime standards up to the point of its production. Its characters were skillfully designed, its weapons intricately crafted, and its battle scenes "fearfully and wonderfully made," if I may be permitted to use a biblical expression.
I especially like Shu and Inori's character designs that seem to so beautifully complement each other's loveliness, as if both of them were made for each other. The anime's choice of theme songs is another feat worthy of praise, with each song perfectly resonating Inori and Shu's innermost thoughts towards each other throughout the story. My personal favourites would be "My Dearest" by Supercell and "Departures ~Anata ni Okuru Ai no Uta~" by Egoist.
Now, allow me to go into the not-so-nice parts of the anime. Firstly, I find the concept of giving physical forms to people's minds and pulling them out unique, if not unusual. What baffles me more are the reasons behind the physical form each character's mind takes, which are not adequately explained except for a few unless I seem to have gravely missed them.
Nonetheless, in such a graphically awesome anime, its plot proves to be a much greater disappointment. The story takes off with a breathtaking start, progresses gradually with vigor and intensity until its midway climax, and starts spiraling down in the latter half.
Twists are powerful tools that can make or break a story, but in the case of Guilty Crown, they seem to have been thrown into the story at the wrong times, some even being thrown quite late into the plot, making it somewhat hard to swallow. Viewers are presented with drastic shifts in the roles of many of its characters, giving an overall confusion as to who the good, the bad, and the ugly are at times.
Perhaps the sole consolation in the plot is the romance between Shu and Inori, which I think is well-developed, sufficiently explored and touchingly ended (although I would have preferred if either Inori survived or Shu died along with her in the end so that this lovely couple can live happily ever after in this world or the next).
In a nutshell, if the writers were to remake the plot of Guilty Crown for the better, it might well have been on its way to winning an award or two.
© 2017 James Ang